A drooping eyelid can stay constant, worsen over time (progressive), or come and go (intermittent). It can be one-sided or on both sides. When drooping is one-sided (unilateral), it is easy to detect by comparing the two eyelids. Drooping is more difficult to detect when it occurs on both sides, or if there is only a slight problem.
A furrowed forehead or a chin-up head position may indicate that someone is trying to see under their drooping lids. Eyelid drooping can make someone appear sleepy or tired.
Drooping lids are either present at birth (congenital) or develop later in life. A drooping eyelid is not a reason to panic, but you should report it to your doctor.
Drooping eyelids may be due to a variety of conditions include aging, diabetes, stroke, Horner syndrome, myasthenia gravis, or a brain tumor or other cancer that affects nerve or muscle reactions. Below are some common causes.
Surgery may be necessary to correct problems with the muscles that open the eyelid (levator muscle dysfunction).
You may get special spectacle frames that suspend the eyelid by traction with a wire. Usually these frames help patients with temporary, partial paralysis, or those who are not good candidates for surgery.
After seeing your health care provider:
You may want to add a diagnosis related to eyelid drooping to your personal medical record.
Custer PL. Blepharoptosis. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 3rd ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby Elsevier; 2008:chap 12.5.
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.